Avoid ‘whelks’

Proverbs 22:24 NLT

There’s a type of whelk called an oyster drill whose favourite food is oysters. As their name suggests, they have a sharp proboscis that they use like a drill. Little by little, the whelk bores a tiny hole in the oyster’s shell until it gets to the soft part of the oyster, then digests and devours the flesh through the hole, leaving an empty, seemingly intact shell behind.

We can meet people who are like that whelk. People who are always negative, who have angry, unreasonable outbursts, or who constantly make critical remarks can chip away at our self-worth, leaving us feel emotionally drained.

If we’re not careful, we can become so irritated by them that we allow anger and bitterness to take over our thoughts. Anger can be very destructive, and can lead use to feel tense, anxious, and depressed. That’s not how God wants us to live.

Jesus said: ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10 NIV). The Bible says, ‘Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul’ (Proverbs 22:24-25 NLT).

We should try to avoid being too close to people who are continually negative or habitually angry at life, as well as those who seem to enjoy putting others down. That doesn’t mean we can ignore them or that we shouldn’t try to help them and show them God’s love. But if we find we’re losing our joy after spending time with them, it might be wise to keep them at a distance and ask God to change their hearts and bring them His joy.

Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:25-35; Luke 2:41-51; Acts 1:13-14

Start seeing it differently

Psalm 27:13 NKJV

When you choose to see things from God’s perspective, it changes how you feel. The only thing keeping your old negative feelings in place is your thinking. “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV). When you start thinking the right way, your life starts going the right way. But remember, you didn’t become negative overnight and you won’t become positive overnight. So how do you start? (1) Replace your negative thinking with thoughts that are “praiseworthy” (Philippians 4:8 NIV). Deal with destructive thoughts the way you’d deal with flies at a picnic – shoo them away. With practice and persistence you can do it. You have that choice! (2) Remember: Before you take on the future, recall God’s goodness to you in the past. Shakespeare said, “Let never day nor night unhallow’d pass, but still remember what the Lord hath done.” David said: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart” (Psalm 27:13-14 NKJV). We don’t have more problems than other people, we just think about them more often. Stop and reread that last sentence! What you think produces how you feel. If you don’t believe that, try feeling angry without first having angry thoughts, or feeling sad without first having sad thoughts. To experience a feeling, you must first entertain the thought that produces it. That’s life-changing information – and it will change your life as you act on it!

Soul food: Jer 45-48; Luke 6:37-49; Ps 109:16-31; Prov 15:23-26

Get out of the boat

Matthew 14:29 ESV

Comfort zones can be challenging to leave. We like things as they are; we don’t want change. It can feel risky to do something different. The Bible tells us that ‘Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.’ He took a risk and left his comfort zone. Will we do the same? Here are some questions to help us think about it: 1) What’s my boat? Our boat is whatever gives us our sense of security. It’s what we’re tempted to put our trust in when life gets stormy. If we’re not sure what our boat is, we can ask ourselves, ‘What would cause me fear if I had to leave it behind and step into something new?’ 2) What’s keeping me from getting out of my boat? The thing that often stops us is fear. That might be fear of people, fear of failure, fear of criticism, or fear of not having enough. In order to grow, we have to step out into new territory, and each time we do that, we’ll experience fear. But each time we get out of our boat, we become a little more able to do it the next time, and we begin to realise that fear doesn’t have the power to control us. 3) What will I lose by staying in my boat? If we stay in our comfort zones, we won’t reach our full potential and we won’t be able to achieve everything that God has called us to do. It might feel like a risk, but if we don’t take the risk then we might spend our lives wondering what would have happened if we’d stepped out of the boat.

Jer 10-13; Luke 3:21-38; Ps 95; Prov 14:29-33

Learning the hard way (3)

Judges 13:7 NCV

The angel who announced Samson’s birth said he was to ‘be a Nazirite,’ which meant that he was to be dedicated to doing God’s will. But Samson was careless about his spiritual life. He prayed only when he was in trouble. He was impulsive; he did whatever he felt like doing. How often can we be like that too? We can end up refusing to follow God’s plan for our lives because our plan seems better. And we can easily fall into the habit of only praying when we need something. God can become just an afterthought and a convenience to us. We turn to Him in desperation when things get tough, but when everything’s all right we ignore Him. Only when Samson was captured by the Philistines, his eyes gouged out, and he was grinding grain at a mill like an ox, do we read that he turned to God and prayed. He said: ‘Sovereign LORD, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more’ (Judges 16:28 NIV). Why did he wait until everything fell apart before turning to God? Just imagine what Samson could have achieved if he’d turned to God right from the start. God shouldn’t be our last resort. We should be turning to Him with everything, all the time. He’s the One who can bring change to our situations, and He’s the One who loves us more than we can ever know. The psalmist said, ‘Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him. You will eat the fruit of your labour; blessings and prosperity will be yours’ (Psalm 128:1-2 NIVUK). We’d save ourselves so many problems and spare ourselves so much pain if we’d take time to invite God into the situation.

2 Kings 18:17-20:21; Luke 1:57-66; Ps 139:13-24; Prov 13:25

Development (4)

Proverbs 13:20 NCV

Finally, we need to develop relationally. God’s plan for our lives requires us to connect with the right people – and disconnect from the wrong ones. Sitting beside Jesus at the Last Supper were John, who loved Him, and Judas, who betrayed Him. We can have people around us who love and support us, but also people who bring us down and go behind our backs. We need to be aware of who is influencing us and who is speaking into our lives. The Bible says: ‘Spend time with the wise and you will become wise.’ The relationships we choose to invest in have a direct effect on how we live and how we develop in our faith. So here’s a great prayer to pray: ‘Lord, I pray for the people You’ve brought into my life and placed on my heart. Please bless the healthy relationships, and give me wisdom to handle the difficult ones in a way that pleases and honours You. If there are friendships I need to walk away from, show me what to do and give me the grace and courage to do it. If there are relationships that are draining and distracting me from Your plan and purpose, I trust You to bring them to an end or change them for the better. And when I’m the one who needs to change, show me, and work in my life by Your amazing power. I need Your wisdom to recognise the friends I should choose. Help me to avoid relationships that lead me away from the path You’ve laid out for me. Send people into my life who are godly and wise, and help us to bless and encourage each other. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.’

Rev 7:13-17; Ps 23; Luke 15:1-7